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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 20:39 GMT
Japan lepers reject spa apology
Japanese former leprosy patients have rejected the apology of a hot springs resort on the southern island of Kyushu which denied them access.

The Kurokawa Onsen Hotel had questioned whether "other guests could be comfortable" around the ex-lepers.

The Ministry of Health has filed a criminal complaint against the resort and told its management to train employees in human rights issues.

Japanese lepers were forced to live in isolated communities until 1996.

Over 3,700 patients - whose average age is 76 - continue to live such institutions and have spent little time in the outside world.

Illegal ban

The Kurokawa Onsen Hotel, in Kumamoto prefecture, had booked in a group from one of these centres.

But, on discovering its members had once suffered from leprosy, it cancelled their reservation.

It is a serious violation of human rights - we'd like to learn from this case
Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa
Owned by a Tokyo cosmetics firm, the resort falls foul of a law which prevents hotels from refusing custom except from those who have contagious diseases.

Leprosy - also known as Hansen's disease - is not communicable once treated.

Local officials had appealed to the establishment to re-instate the booking.

"It is a serious violation of human rights. We'd like to learn from this case as we strengthen efforts to eliminate misunderstanding and prejudice toward leprosy suffers," Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa said.

The hotel faces a fine of 20,000 yen ($180).

Seven years ago Japan repealed an 89-year law under which leprosy victims could be forcibly secluded.

The Japanese authorities have also apologised to leprosy patients who suffered human rights abuses as a result of government policy.

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05 Sep 02  |  Health

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